PROMISING NEW ANTIBIOTIC.
A new antibiotic, zoliflodacin, has shown promise in a large-scale clinical trial as a treatment for gonorrhoea, a disease affecting nearly 100 million people annually and increasingly resistant to current drugs. Developed by Entasis Therapeutics, with initial work by AstraZeneca, zoliflodacin targets a key bacterial enzyme and has proven effective and safe in a trial involving 930 participants, comparing favorably with standard treatments. The Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) supported the trial, addressing the urgent need for new treatments as strains resistant to current antibiotics like ceftriaxone and azithromycin are spreading. While laboratory tests show potential for resistance to zoliflodacin, no such cases have been detected in patients yet. To prevent resistance, zoliflodacin is being developed specifically for gonorrhoea and related STIs. Pricing is undisclosed, but there is hope for affordability comparable to current treatments. (Nature)
STORM WRECKS EUROPE.
Storm Ciarán caused significant disruption and fatalities across Western Europe, with record-breaking winds exceeding 190 kph (118 mph) in parts of France and the UK. At least five deaths were reported, including those of a truck driver in France and individuals in Belgium, Spain, and Germany due to fallen trees. The storm resulted in widespread damage, power outages affecting over a million households in France, and halted travel as flights were canceled and roads blocked. Emergency services were stretched, with emergency workers among the injured. Authorities closed public spaces like parks and beaches, urging caution. The UK experienced substantial infrastructure damage, with evacuations and closed schools. Despite the storm moving off the East Anglian coast and losing energy, officials warned of continued flooding risks and advised against coastal visits. The storm’s impact was compared to the Great Storm of 1987, especially in the Channel Islands where it caused extensive damage. (Associated Press)
UN TURNS TO AI FOR ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT.
F. LeRon Shults and Justin Lane are developing an AI model for the UN to analyze the Israel-Palestinian conflict, not to solve it. Their startup, CulturePulse, aims to create a digital twin of society, modeling over 15 million individuals with detailed attributes to predict societal responses to different scenarios with 95% accuracy. The project builds on Lane’s prior work in Northern Ireland, where he used computational models to predict conflict outcomes. Although their work involves significant on-ground data collection, the model’s primary purpose is to help the UN understand potential solutions to the conflict. Their initial contract with the UNDP runs until January, with the potential for an extended second phase. (Wired)
UK SUMMIT ON AI SAFETY.
The UK hosted an AI Safety Summit with 28 countries to discuss the risks of advanced AI systems. At the summit, “The Bletchley Declaration” was signed, calling for international cooperation on AI deployment. Concerns about AI surpassing human intelligence and potential catastrophic harm were central topics, with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and figures like Elon Musk emphasizing the urgency of identifying threats. While some AI experts believe existential risks are overstated, the summit highlighted current issues like ethics and bias in AI. No specific policy goals were set, reflecting the broad and undefined nature of AI technology. The US and EU are pursuing their regulatory measures, but the summit primarily served as a platform for dialogue rather than concrete action, with some viewing it as symbolic. (Ars Technica)
WHITE HOUSE WANTS AI ALGORITHMS TESTED FIRST.
The White House has proposed draft rules directing federal agencies to assess and constantly monitor AI algorithms for possible discriminatory outcomes or human rights impacts in sectors like health care, law enforcement, and housing. Agencies must review existing algorithms by August 2024 and discontinue any non-compliant ones. There are exemptions for national security and possible waivers for essential agency operations. This follows President Biden’s executive order to balance AI use with harm prevention, calling for testing and independent evaluation of AI, including red teaming. The OMB, coordinating the effort, is open to public feedback on the draft until December 5. The rules could alter the use of AI in government, as over 700 algorithms are currently deployed, with the OMB seeking better reporting of their use. Vice President Harris highlighted these initiatives in London, emphasizing the current challenges of AI-amplified bias and misinformation. Critics like Merve Hickok caution against overuse of waivers, which could weaken the rules’ impact. (Wired)
AI APP DEMOCRATIZES COMIC CREATION.
Dashtoon is innovating the comic-creating industry by offering generative AI tools and a publishing platform for creators who can’t draw. With a suite called Dashtoon Comic Reader, it plans to release almost 1,000 new episodes monthly. The startup has begun monetizing, expecting to earn $15,000 in its first month and aims to increase revenue significantly. Operating on a freemium model, it offers one free episode per comic daily. Having raised $5 million in seed funding, Dashtoon was founded by veterans of Pocket FM and a deep-tech expert from Morphle Labs. The idea originated from using comic strips to market serialized audio content, revealing a demand for digital comics in the U.S. Dashtoon Studio allows creators to produce episodes rapidly, with the potential to reduce creation time to under an hour. Despite concerns about AI-generated art, Dashtoon maintains that human creativity is central and ensures full creative control for the creators, also addressing copyright issues proactively. The platform aims to differentiate itself with its content library, release rate, and focus on building a native creator community, targeting long-form content in popular genres. (Techcrunch)
MUSHROOM MURDERER FOUND GUILTY.
In a case that has captured national attention in Australia, a woman has been charged with murder and attempted murder following the deaths of three family members after a lunch she hosted. Erin Patterson, 49, is accused of poisoning her guests with a meal that included mushrooms, leading to the deaths of her estranged husband’s parents and aunt. The fourth guest, her uncle-in-law, survived after nearly two months in critical care. The symptoms were consistent with death cap mushroom poisoning, a lethal variety found in the region. Despite Patterson’s consistent denials and expressions of love for the victims, police charged her after a detailed investigation, which included prior incidents where a 48-year-old man fell ill. Her house was searched for evidence, and she is due in court. The case has received significant media and public interest both locally and internationally. Patterson claimed she bought the mushrooms from a supermarket and an Asian grocer and also fell ill after the meal, stating she had eaten the beef Wellington prepared for the lunch. (New York Times)
IMAGE CREDIT: (ENTER NAMES)
Sign up for the Daily Dose Newsletter and get every morning’s best science news from around the web delivered straight to your inbox? It’s easy like Sunday morning.